Connecting Students to Mental Health Care Through Telehealth Technology
Approximately 1 in 6 school-age children experience a mental health disorder each year, and experts estimate up to 60% of students do not receive the care they need to address these challenges. Of the students who receive mental health care, many access those services at school.
But, access to services is by no means guaranteed, as ongoing workforce concerns and an unequal distribution of behavioral health providers across the country further complicate matters. As school systems seek to support the whole child throughout their educational journey, some are finding innovative ways to ensure students receive the mental health care they need — sometimes via less-traditional means like telehealth technology.
Telehealth refers to the provision of health care remotely by means of telecommunications technology — including videoconferencing, streaming media, wireless communications and other electronic means. Where this option exists in schools, telehealth is often provided through school-based health centers and used to improve access to treatment that might otherwise be limited for students. According to a report from the American Telemedicine Association, school-based telehealth can provide access to a wide spectrum of care — including mental health — in order to improve health quality and academic outcomes.
At the state and federal levels, support for telehealth in schools has primarily centered on funding for these services. Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted funds to 120 school-based health centers to, in part, expand access to mental health-related services for students. Many states provide grant funding to school-based health centers, and some state policies allow telehealth services to be covered through Medicaid.
With or without these supports, telehealth options have taken hold in districts and school systems, especially in rural areas where access may be especially limited. Examples from rural communities include:
- The Dickinson Public School District in southwest North Dakota uses telehealth technology to expand access to mental health treatment for students.
- A pilot project at a school in Orleans, Indiana, provides students with access to therapists from Indiana University Health via a two-way video chat.
- The Telehealth ROCKS Schools program provides telehealth services to school-based health centers in rural parts of Kansas to address various health concerns, including behavioral health.
Excerpted from “Connecting Students to Mental Health Care Through Telehealth Technology” in EdNote, Education Commission of the States‘ education policy blog. Read the full article for more details on the telehealth pilots.
Source: Education Commission of the States | Connecting Students to Mental Health Care Through Telehealth Technology, https://ednote.ecs.org/connecting-students-to-mental-health-care-through-telehealth-technology | ©2019 Education Commission of the States
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